Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Kho worked as a mechanic for One Toyota (OTO) from 2010-2014, when his employment was terminated. Kho filed a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner. After settlement discussions failed, OTO filed a petition to compel arbitration. Under the arbitration agreement, which OTO required Kho to execute without explanation, the wage claim was subject to binding arbitration conducted by a retired superior court judge. Because the intended procedure incorporated many of the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure and the Evidence Code, the anticipated arbitration proceeding would resemble ordinary civil litigation. The trial court denied the petition to compel. Under the state supreme court’s 2013 “Sonic-Calabasas” decision, an arbitration agreement that waives the various advantageous provisions of the Labor Code governing the litigation of a wage claim is substantively unconscionable if it fails to provide the employee with an affordable and accessible alternative forum. The trial court concluded that the alternative anticipated by OTO’s arbitration agreement failed this standard because it effectively required Kho to retain counsel and did not expressly provide for him to recover his attorney fees if he prevailed. The court of appeal reversed, concluding the arbitration proceeding satisfies the Sonic requirements of affordability and accessibility. View "OTO, L.L.C. v. Kho" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Aleksei Sviridov was terminated as a police officer for the City of San Diego. In the first appeal, Sviridov challenged an order denying his petition for administrative mandamus in which he sought a determination by the Civil Service Commission of the City on the merits of his challenge to his first termination. The Court of Appeal concluded Sviridov's administrative claim was moot in light of the decision to reinstate Sviridov and to pay his back pay and benefits. In a second appeal, the Court affirmed summary judgment on Sviridov's third amended complaint asserting claims for wrongful termination stemming from his second termination (among others). The Cout reversed the trial court's order sustaining defendants' demurrer to Sviridov's ninth breach of contract cause of action and remanded the matter with directions to grant Sviridov leave to amend his complaint to state a cause of actin under the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act ("POBRA") or to seek mandamus relief. Following remand, Sviridov filed a fourth amended complaint seeking relief under POBRA without pursuing a writ of mandate. The court entered judgment after a bench trial ordering Sviridov's reinstatement as a police officer and awarding him back pay and benefits. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment in "Sviridov III" concluding Sviridov was not entitled to POBRA relief because Sviridov did not timely appeal his termination with the office of the chief of police as required by a memorandum of understanding with the San Diego Police Officers' Association. The matter was remanded again with directions to enter judgment in favor of the City and stated the City was entitled to costs on appeal. In the present appeal, Sviridov appealed the award of costs to the City, arguing the City was not entitled to costs based upon Williams v. Chino Valley Independent Fire Dist., 61 Cal.4th 97, (2015), which held that in actions based upon the California Fair Employment and Housing Act costs should not be awarded under Government Code section 12965(b), to a defendant against an unsuccessful FEHA plaintiff "unless the plaintiff brought or continued litigating the action without an objective basis for believing it had potential merit." Sviridov also argued POBRA prohibited an award of costs for the defense of his POBRA claim unless the action was frivolous or brought in bad faith. The City argued neither of these statutes applied because the City was entitled to its costs pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 9981 since Sviridov rejected multiple statutory settlement offers and did not obtain a more favorable result. The Court of Appeal agreed with the City and affirmed the cost award. View "Sviridov v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Melony Light appealed judgments in favor of her employer, defendant California Department of Parks and Recreation (Department), and her former supervisors, defendants Leda Seals and Kathy Dolinar, following orders granting defendants' motions for summary judgment. Light worked for the Department's Ocotillo Wells District. She alleged numerous claims against the Department, Seals, and Dolinar, including retaliation, harassment, disability discrimination, assault, false imprisonment, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court disposed of several claims at the pleading stage. After two and a half years of litigation, the Department, Seals, and Dolinar moved for summary judgment on the remaining claims against them. As to the Department, the Court of Appeal concluded triable issues of material fact precluded summary adjudication of Light's retaliation claim, but not her disability discrimination claim. Light's claim against the Department for failure to prevent retaliation or discrimination therefore survived based on the retaliation claim. As to Seals and Dolinar, the Court concluded contrary to the trial court that workers' compensation exclusivity did not bar Light's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress under the circumstances here. However, as to the merits of that claim, the Court concluded Light has raised a triable issue of fact only as to Seals, not Dolinar. Furthermore, the Court concluded Light raised triable issues of fact on her assault claim against Seals. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgments in favor of the Department and Seals, and affirmed in full the judgment in favor of Dolinar. View "Light v. Calif. Dept. of Parks & Rec." on Justia Law

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In the limited context of a situation where disclaimer was raised as a defense to an unfair labor practices charge based on the failure to bargain, the Court of Appeal held that the Board correctly identified and applied the rules that define when a certified union has made a disclaimer of interest in representing the bargaining unit. However, the Board's awarding of make whole relief was based on an erroneous determination that the litigation of the employer's position relating to the disclaimer defense did not further the policies and purposes of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, Lab. Code, 1140-1166.3. In this case, the public interest was furthered by the litigation of the disclaimer issue and, therefore, make whole relief was not "appropriate" for purposes of section 1160.3. Therefore, the petition for review was granted in part and denied in part. View "Arnaudo Brothers, LP v. Agricultural Labor Relations Bd." on Justia Law

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For purposes of the Iskanian rule, the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) representative claims for civil penalties are limited to those where a portion of the recovery is allocated to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency. Claims for unpaid wages based on Labor Code section 558 are not allocated in this manner and, therefore, the Iskanian rule does not exempt such claims from arbitration. Applying the interpretation of the Iskanian rule and its term of art, civil penalties, to this litigation, the court concluded that some of the claims the employee was pursuing were PAGA representative claims that seek civil penalties. Under the Iskanian rule, those claims were not subject to arbitration. Therefore, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order insofar as it denied arbitration of the representative claims for civil penalties and remanded for further proceedings. View "Esparza v. KS Industries, LP" on Justia Law

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Guerrero applied for workers’ compensation benefits after he was injured in the course of his employment as a construction laborer. He received temporary disability benefits: November 18–December 4, 2005, and January 17–June 15, 2006. His entitlement to permanent disability benefits was contested but settled in December 2014. The resulting agreement provided that Guerrero would receive a lump sum in satisfaction of his employer’s obligation to pay permanent disability benefits, less the amount of permanent disability payments his employer had advanced. Guerrero also applied for benefits from the Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund (SIBTF), the state fund that pays workers’ compensation benefits to certain permanently disabled workers. A Workers’ Compensation ALJ ordered the SIBTF to pay, finding that Guerrero’s preexisting condition combined with the subsequent injury left him totally and permanently disabled. The ALJ fixed the beginning date for SIBTF payments as June 16, 2006, the day after temporary disability payments ceased, rejecting SIBTF’s argument that its obligation should not begin until January 26, 2011 (when Guerrero’s injuries were deemed permanent and stationary). The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board denied a petition for review. The court of appeal affirmed, finding that under the controlling statutes, SIBTF benefits commence at the time the employer’s obligation to pay permanent disability benefits begins. View "Baker v. Workers Compensation Appeals Board" on Justia Law

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Nathan Minnick sued his former joint employers, Automobile Creations, Inc. and Dynamic Auto Images, Inc. (defendants), alleging their vacation policy violated state law because it required employees who worked for less than one year to forfeit vested vacation pay. Minnick brought the action individually and on behalf of all similarly situated employees, and sought penalties under California's Labor Code Private Attorney General Act of 2004 (PAGA). The court sustained defendants' demurrer without leave to amend on Minnick's second amended complaint. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding defendants' vacation policy lawfully provided that employees did not begin to earn vacation time until after their first year. Because Minnick's employment ended during his first year, he did not have any vested or accrued vacation pay. Thus, he was not owed any vacation wages. View "Minnick v. Automotive Creations, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Aram Bonni, a surgeon, sued St. Joseph Hospital of Orange (St. Joseph), Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center (Mission), and other defendants for, inter alia, retaliation under Health and Safety Code, section 1278.5 (the whistleblower statute). Plaintiff alleged defendants retaliated against him for his whistleblower complaints by summarily suspending his medical staff privileges and conducting hospital peer review proceedings. In response to plaintiff’s complaint, defendants filed a special motion under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (the anti-SLAPP statute) to strike plaintiff’s retaliation cause of action, asserting his claim arose from the protected activity of hospital peer review proceedings. The court granted defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion as to both St. Joseph and Mission. After review, the Court of Appeals concluded plaintiff’s retaliation claim under the whistleblower statute arose from defendants’ alleged acts of retaliation against plaintiff because he complained about the robotic surgery facilities at the hospitals, and not from any written or oral statements made during the peer review process or otherwise. “Discrimination and retaliation claims are rarely, if ever, good candidates for the filing of an anti-SLAPP motion. This case is no exception.” Defendants’ motion to strike failed on prong one of the anti-SLAPP test (probability to prevail), and the Court reversed the order granting defendants’ motion on that basis. View "Bonni v. St. Joseph Health System" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants Valerie Kizer and Sharal Williams filed this putative class action against their former employer, defendant and respondent Tristar Risk Management (Tristar), alleging Tristar failed to pay Plaintiffs and its other claims examiners overtime compensation because it misclassified them as exempt from California’s overtime laws. The court found Tristar’s alleged misclassification of the proposed class members suitable for class treatment, but it denied the motion because misclassification does not give rise to liability on an overtime claim unless the employees first show they worked hours or days that required overtime compensation. Plaintiffs contended the trial court erred because the amount of overtime worked by the individual class members was a damages issue, and the need for individual proof of damages was not a proper basis for denying class certification. To satisfy the commonality requirement for class certification, Plaintiffs were required to show their liability theory could be established on a classwide basis through common proof. Plaintiffs presented no evidence of any such policy or practice. Without commonality, plaintiffs’ unfair competition law claim also failed. View "Kizer v. Tristar Risk Management" on Justia Law

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Defendant The Copley Press, Inc., owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper (collectively UT), appealed a trial court’s judgment finding plaintiffs (or carriers) were employees of UT in this class action suit. UT argued on appeal: (1) the class representatives were inadequate; (2) the court committed reversible error by not limiting the trial to certified issues and by granting plaintiffs' motion to amend their second amended complaint according to proof; (3) the court did not and could not manage individualized issues; (4) the court's order bifurcating plaintiffs' cause of action under Business and Professions Code section 172001 to be tried first deprived UT of its right to a jury trial; (5) the class award should have been reversed because UT paid carriers enhanced compensation that reimbursed them for expenses the court awarded; (6) the amounts the court awarded were not restitution; (7) the court erred in awarding plaintiffs prejudgment interest; (8) substantial evidence does not support the court's determination that the carriers were employees rather than independent contractors; (9) the court erred in awarding plaintiffs attorney fees under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5;2 (10) even if attorney fees could be awarded, the court erred by not substantially reducing them for limited success; and (11) the court erred by adopting plaintiffs' lodestar amount in awarding attorney fees. Plaintiffs appealed the award of attorney fees, arguing: (1) the court abused its discretion in not awarding an enhancement of the lodestar amount of their fees; and (2) the court erred in ruling they abandoned their cause of action for damages under Labor Code section 28023 and therefore could not recover attorney fees under that statute. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment, and remanded with directions to redetermine the class award, attorney fees, and prejudgment interest. In all other respects, the trial court was affirmed. View "Espejo v. The Copley Press" on Justia Law